What are pain clinics?

What happens at a pain clinic?

The first pain clinic was founded after the Second World War through the University of Washington in Seattle by Dr. J. Bonica, who saw an overwhelming need for treating the myriad physiological and psychological wounds of his patients who were ex-soldiers. Dr. Bonica formulated a chronic pain team of medical and health professionals to provide a coordinated, interdisciplinary approach where several specialists could work as a team under one roof.

The team realized that although World War II veterans could not be cured of their complex pain, they could be taught to understand, take responsibility for, and gain control over their pain and increase their ability to function.

Since then much has been learned about pain and its various causes and manifestations. However, the goals remain the same. Modern pain clinics encompass teams of medical and health professionals who work together to provide a focused, coordinated, goal-oriented approach to therapy.

A major goal is to educate and assist patients in identifying and accepting responsibility for the management of their own recovery and health. Patients are educated in techniques of pain control as well as techniques for allowing them to refocus on function, even if some pain persists. In addition, methods of stress reduction are emphasized. Patients are also taught the difference between hurt and harm, thereby restoring confidence and hope. Ideally, the patient's family is involved in treatment.

Types of pain treated in chronic pain clinics

Chronic pain clinics treat many types of pain, e.g.:

  • headache, migraine
  • whiplash
  • temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
  • back pain
  • arthritis and other joint problems
  • repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • complex regional pain syndrome
  • neuralgia
  • fibromyalgia
  • abdominal pain
  • pelvic pain
  • myofascial pain syndrome

Areas of treatment focus

A chronic pain treatment program will focus on a number of areas, e.g.:

  • pain control
  • goal setting and pacing
  • preventive activities
  • correct medication management
  • reconditioning exercises
  • physical therapy
  • education in physiology and psychology of pain
  • stress and pain management techniques
  • vocational assessment and counseling

Benefits of appropriate chronic pain management

Appropriate management of chronic pain has many benefits:

  • improved pain control
  • increased confidence
  • increased sense of emotional well-being
  • improved function
  • increase in activity level
  • decrease in use of medications
  • overall decrease in need for medical care and surgical intervention
  • return to productive lifestyle
  • diminished burden on society

Should you visit a chronic pain clinic?

You should consider going to a pain clinic if you have been told any of the following statements:

  • There is nothing more that can be done.
  • I am sending you to a psychiatrist.
  • The pain is all in your head.
  • You will need to learn to live with your pain.
  • You need to learn how to cope with your pain.
  • You do not look in pain.

Similarly, a pain clinic may be able to offer you help if you have asked any of the following questions:

  • Why are my test results (X-ray, CT, MRI, nerve conduction studies) negative?
  • Why can I not take a pill and be better?
  • Why do I have pain without any injury?
  • Why can't my doctor take my pain away?

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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